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Already denied his entire senior year of football by his former principal and the FHSAA, Armwood OL Gabe Nold is going to court to try and salvage the final weeks of the 2013 wrestling season.
Nold, who transferred from Wharton last February, has filed a complaint against the FHSAA in Hillsborough County circuit court.
An honors student, he was deemed ineligible last spring by then-Hawks principal Michael Ippolito, who determined Nold had used false residence information to enroll at Armwood. An FHSAA appeals committee twice upheld Ippolito's ruling, as did its board of directors.
Nold is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief that would allow him to wrestle right away. According to Peter Hobson, his Tampa-based attorney, the FHSAA is in violation of House Bill 1403, which states in part that "ineligibility must be established by clear and convincing evidence."
Nold, who maintains he has lived with his father in a small Seffner apartment since transferring, was ruled ineligible shortly after school administrators visited the apartment. Hobson says House Bill 1403 has a higher "evidentiary standard" than an apartment visit.
No money is being sought. Hobson said if the case can be heard within the next week or so, Nold can become eligible for the Class 2A, District 9 wrestling tournament on Feb. 2.
"That's our hope and prayer," Hobson said. "But even if he can't get it heard in time, he still wants to get it heard."
After his first eligibility appeal was rejected last summer, Nold's family provided what Hobson called "scientific evidence" in the form of reams of cell-phone records they insist proved he has resided with his dad all along. The Nolds also provided testimony from "an expert in interpretation of cell phone records."
Upon presenting that data to the board, they were directed back to the appeals committee in Bradenton, which again denied their eligibility request. A final appeal to the FHSAA board in November was rejected by a 12-4 vote.
"There's a new evidentiary standard. It's no longer by mere preponderance of the evidence," Hobson said.
"And we think in the Nold case, the sectional appeals committee did not accept scientific evidence as being persuasive. They basically said in their opinion, a one-time visit by a couple of guys to their apartment was more persuasive than scientific evidence."